Eighteen primary-school students were buried yesterday and at least 5 killed when a landslide hit their school in southwest China as they studied during a holiday to make up classes lost due to earthquakes last month.
Chinese state television said one person died in the landslide that struck a classroom building and two farmhouses in Yunnan Province, but gave no other details.
The students at the Youfang Primary School would not normally have been in school, as China is on a week-long national holiday.
However, they were making up for lost time caused by disruptions stemming from two Sept. 7 earthquakes that struck Yiliang County, killing 81 people and injuring hundreds.
Web users immediately raised questions about the decision to have the children in school.
“Are the officials all on vacation? Why was there no alert? Why were there students in school during the holidays?” a user of leading microblogging site Sina Weibo asked after the landslide.
The safety of school pupils is a sensitive issue after thousands of students died when an magnitude 8 tremor in 2008 rocked Sichuan Province in southwestern China and parts of neighboring Shaanxi and Gansu. Many schools collapsed in the 2008 quake, which killed more than 80,000 people.
Images broadcast on state television showed rescue personnel picking through landslide debris and the broadcaster said the landslide occurred after sustained rains in the area.
Many buildings in Yiliang County are located precariously at the foot of steep mountainsides.
The landslide struck at 8am as students were arriving for classes, reports said.
Yiliang County was one of the areas worst-hit by the two magnitude 5.6 earthquakes last month.
“Youfang is one of the schools that has resumed classes. I have no more details,” an official at the Yiliang Education Bureau who gave only his surname, Zhang, told reporters.
An earlier statement by the bureau had encouraged all classes to resume by today.
A family of three managed to escape before the landslide hit, Xinhua said, but gave no other details on them.
Local government officials moved residents and dispatched rescue teams to the area, it added.